by: Chealynn Feaster
I can't believe the biggest piece of the puzzle is actually completed. My visa appointment! After stressing and questioning my documents, the appointment went smoothly and took no longer than 15minutes. If my documents were incomplete or incorrect in some way it could possibly delay my departure date and/or employment start date. No visa means NO Spain and there’s just isn’t any way of getting around that. And for this being my first time moving, living and working abroad I NEED to be there as early as I can to get myself situated. I NEED to attend my orientation to have all of my questions answered. The questions I have now and the questions that are sure to arise each day as my start date gets closer and closer. I want to feel settled and at peace as much I possibly can before I leave and when I arrive on another continent X amount of miles away from everything that is safe and familiar and the way that I know how to minimize my angst and feel at peace in most situations in my life is to read, write and ASK.
READ - The internet is a wonderful tool I use to my complete advantage. I’m reading up on Spain and learning as much as I can through travel blogs, expat forums and participating in FB groups that are specific to my needs and traveling destinations. I’m learning from people who have done it before as well as newbies like myself who are navigating through the entire preparation process for the first time. The never ending to do list can be daunting but also exciting once you start checking things off. In the Facebook groups we announce and cheer each other on when background checks are apostiled without a hitch, visa appointments are complete and plane tickets are purchased. Through all the issues, concerns and reservations, seeking information and support can relieve so much of the stress that can manifest when trying to go at it alone.
WRITE – All of the information that I'm reading and learning I can’t possibly remember so I jot down alot of notes, especially useful topics that will need further research (aka more Googling). Packing is such a small part of the process, preparing includes researching crime rate, economic and political status specific to your area along with setting up VPN’s, bank accounts and finding English speaking doctors and/or specialists if needed. The "to do" list that I mentioned before is literally a list that I write down on paper with a pen and each item is checked off as they are completed. Most people rely on their smartphone calendars or electronic task reminders but for me there is something about the physical act of handwriting that is therapeutic. I’ve been a journal writer since I was twelve years old and to write down goals and see progress (or setbacks) on paper gives me an extra boost and sense of accomplishment. Of course not every single item may be completed in a given day but seeing what I need to do keeps me more organized and focused.
ASK! - Know that no question is too small or too dumb. This is how you learn. If you can’t find the answer on your own ask someone who has already done what you want to do. They may offer advice and additional information that you never knew you needed. By asking questions I just recently found out that T-Mobile can provide me with a code to unlock my sim card so I can use my phone overseas, now I don’t have to purchase a new phone in Europe and that gives me one less thing to worry about.
So in my quest to continue releasing a few fears and anxieties I'm also reflecting and asking myself some questions. I wrote a few down and invite you to do the same. Answer them for yourself or come up with a couple of your own, meditate and breathe it out, allow your mind some peace we will definitely need it!
What are my expectations?
To be amazed and to fall in love. Everyone I speak to about leaving for Madrid whether they've never been there visited once or already live there assures me…"you're gonna love it!" so I'm setting expectations high on this one. I really do love NY but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room in my heart for new additions. I'm ready to ooh and aah over landscape and architecture, experience breathtaking scenery and eat authentic run and tell that food!
What is my contingency plan?
Realistically I know my comfort level will be significantly compromised. I won’t touch down in Madrid throw my hat in the air and twirl Mary Tyler Moore style some major adjusting will have to take place as I encounter a different language, new culture, new people, a different lifestyle...what if I hate it and want to come home? What if I love it and want to stay beyond the expiration date of my teaching contract? How can I start to prepare now for each scenario?
(Side note: Returning early is not an option, I signed up for one school year and I'm sticking it out for one school year)
What are my goals?
Learn a new language. Open my mind to new activities. Stay inspired. Influence a child's life.
Or another version of this question (I get asked this the most) is what made you decide to move to Spain and honestly I felt bored and boring. NY is all I know as I haven’t spent a significant amount of time anywhere else and I wanted to experience a different kind of energy. I want to see the sights in Spain, Italy, London, Paris and Morocco and it really couldn’t hurt me to be a little more cultured. I once went on vacation and met someone who was an avid scuba diver. He dived in every country he visited and was so proud that his passport barely had room for any more stamps. Scuba diving was his thing and his passion for it was admirable. Now I don’t particularly see myself scuba diving but I did want a part of that travel excitement. I want stories to tell my kids and grandkids so…why not?